Caterham Seven 310R: PH Fleet

By now you will hopefully be familiar with the premise of having a Caterham Seven on the PH Fleet; not only does it give us chance to try the 310R, Caterham's self-proclaimed successor to the R300, it also meant PHers could get involved too. Seven readers, seven months and seven stories with a Caterham Seven is the plan...

Here's the first reader report, from Ben Nicholls. The next half a dozen will follow in the coming weeks and months - enjoy!

Over the four days of 'loanership' with the Seven, I got to experience a wave of astonishing fun and times which felt like abysmal torture. Matt Bird did send a few pointers out, which I pretty much ignored. I shouldn't have (don't say I didn't warn you! - MB).

Start them young!
Start them young!
The first day was a 260-mile drive from PistonHeads HQ in Twickenham to Teesside. Yes, Teesside. Caterhams aren't exactly garnished with creature comforts, but in all honesty, once you are going it really isn't that bad. Heck, you could almost call it comfortable once on the motorway. The mirrors are useless, though, but then that's nothing compared to the sense of vulnerability you feel. It makes a Fiesta look like a large family hatch. Honestly, a 5 Series overtook me and I was lower than the door handles.

And there's the noise. Between 50 and 60mph, the diff noise is just unbearable; not great when you're in a 50mph limited roadworks section for mile after interminable mile. I can still hear the whining now, which probably isn't a good sign.

As I arrived home, the addictive pops and bangs from the exhaust got the attention of my children, who immediately charged towards me and the car. The youngest boy (he's three) was too small to be taken out and the harnesses wouldn't tighten enough for my eldest boy who is seven, but a few cushions to boost him up got him a quick spin out.

"Remember where we've parked"
"Remember where we've parked"
On Saturday, it was wet, warm and muggy. Putting on the roof was a real struggle, to the point where I almost gave up. Once the roof was on, there is no dignified way to get in and out and, if you're like me, you burn your leg. My friend and I took the car to Hartside cafe, and took a route from Darlington to Barnard Castle, onto Stanhope and then Alston, finishing at Hartside. This is one of my favourite routes, in an area of great driving roads. I was expecting a nervous and twitchy car in the wet, but it handled well, although the cars suspension wasn't a fan of the uneven roads I chose.

If Saturday was a bit of a disappointment, Sunday was perfect: A beaming sun and not a cloud in sight. I took Mrs N to Stokesley for breakfast and then it was just me, a Caterham and some truly beautiful roads over North Yorkshire. I drove from Stokesley to Helmsley, then onto Pickering, heading to Guisborough via Castleton and got to learn just how good the Caterham 310R is to drive. In the dry those sticky semi-slick Avons just never let go and I love the gearbox too; it's so short and precise. You get such a good feeling from this car you can't help but want to push harder and harder.

Sunset, a Seven and some great roads - bliss!
Sunset, a Seven and some great roads - bliss!
It isn't perfect: the harnesses are impossible to live with, the fuel gauge is a joke and the wipers, well, don't really wipe. I bashed my knuckles getting third. And fifth.

But, of course, none of that really matters - I loved this car. Not just because of its pace or incredible handling, but its plucky character and ability to charm anyone. Whether driving or sat eating my breakfast, it got respect from people of all ages. It's a car seemingly everybody likes, regardless of whether they are into cars or not.

Would I buy one? Absolutely. I think £38K for a car you can only really use in the dry is a lot, but it would be a great track car. More than that a Caterham has heritage, and that's what makes it so likeable. Bikers would give you the nod as they went by. I got a thumbs up from someone driving a Lotus Evora. I have never, ever had a car like that.

So is the Z4 going Ben?
So is the Z4 going Ben?
After the Seven, a 'normal' car feels enormous, heavy and numb and dull. It probably goes without saying now, but if you want something fun and tremendously characterful, I think a Caterham will be the match you are looking for.

Finally, I just want to say thank you to PistonHeads and Caterham for the opportunity to build and drive a car; it was an experience I will never forget. I look forward to seeing the remaining six take on the Seven...

: Caterham Seven 310R
Run by: Whoever gets it first
On fleet since: April 2017
Mileage: 3,360
List price new: £23,495 (As tested £38,930 comprising £2,500 for factory build, £4,495 for R pack, £200 for track suspension pack, £675 for ventilated front brakes with quad piston calipers, £200 for 13-inch Apollo black alloys on Avon ZZS tyres, £1,250 for full weather equipment and side screens, £95 for side screen arm rests, £80 for hood bag, £95 for boot cover in carbon vinyl, £115 for fully carpeted interior, £400 for carbon leather seats, £150 for Momo quick release steering wheel, £300 for heater, £300 for Sequential shift lights, £495 for lowered floors, £900 for high intensity lights with LED daytime running lights, £1,000 for Miami Blue custom colour, £395 for full decal pack, £995 for full paint protection and £895 for on the road package)  
Last month at a glance: First PHer gets their hands on the Seven, takes it to Teesside and back!

Previous updates
We need help building 'our' 310R

It's built, now to get it on the road
A splendid start for summer in a Seven

Find out more about Caterham here.





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Comments (7) Join the discussion on the forum

  • gareth29 01 Aug 2017

    Sounds like you had fun. I had a day in one (a 1.6 roadsport) a while back and I cant say I even noticed any whine from the diff over the exhaust noise. Maybe its faulty?

  • Pan Pan Pan 01 Aug 2017

    Caterhams are probably a good example of a Marmite car, in that people either `get' them and love them, or they don`t, and would not even want a second go in one.
    I tend to wear gloves in a seven for two reasons, one it helps to avoid scraped knuckles from the dash board, and depending on what type of steering wheel is used gives a better grip (in a two stage amber sort of way) The question would be would you buy one if that were a possibility? They hold their price well, but sometimes they can seen `very' expensive for a what might be a high day and holiday, or track car.

  • NigelCayless 01 Aug 2017

    I bought one of these last year. Kept it for two months then sold it. Couldn't get over the feeling that I looked like Noddy driving about in it.

    On the plus side it felt quick at any speed in a way no other car I've driven has. Overall there were just too many compromises for me.

  • nicholasm 01 Aug 2017

    gareth29 said:
    Sounds like you had fun. I had a day in one (a 1.6 roadsport) a while back and I cant say I even noticed any whine from the diff over the exhaust noise. Maybe its faulty?
    "OK, who put this car together, Stevie W... oh, it was me" wink

  • Master Bean 01 Aug 2017

    gareth29 said:
    Sounds like you had fun. I had a day in one (a 1.6 roadsport) a while back and I cant say I even noticed any whine from the diff over the exhaust noise. Maybe its faulty?
    The roadsport won't have an lsd hence no noise. When I first drove mine everything was so loud but now I've got used to it I love the diff whine.

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